Potent, unforgettable tales and razor-sharp writing.

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Eclectic characters struggle with fluctuating careers and relationships in this collection of short stories.

When an unemployed English teacher in “Content Moderator” is desperate for work, an old high school friend has a job for her. But evaluating disturbing online images and videos that people have reported may be more than the unnamed narrator can handle. Seemingly innocuous individuals in Wright’s (Table Manners, 2017) powerful book often find themselves in arduous circumstances. In “Lean into the Mic,” for example, Amanda has been performing amateur stand-up comedy for two years. But the perpetually anxious woman isolates herself from others, compounding her already precarious marriage. Similarly, Angela, the titular, self-professed “Major Prude,” is nonplussed when her wilder friend Carla and her roommate/stepbrother, Liam, hook up. But the aftermath may threaten her relationships with both. These profound tales typically showcase resilient characters. Chrissie, in “Uncle Harris,” faces off against her estranged father’s brother, who she believes is plotting to take away her younger siblings. In the title story, a mandatory work event (a “talk” on dealing with negativity) is an opportunity for a woman to come to terms with her brother’s recent fatal overdose. The author fills the pages with indelible prose and wry humor: Emily of “The Emilies” believes certain friendships are “as dutiful and potentially pointless as washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.” Nevertheless, even the more comedic tales don’t forgo character insight. “Love Lasts Forever but a Tattoo Lasts Longer” features a decidedly unromantic wedding—near a prison visitation room with a priest who smells of hot dogs. But the bride may prefer that her new husband stay in jail (“I’ll know where he is every second”). The final work, “Them,” is the collection’s highlight. In it, Kate is shocked to learn that her lesbian best friend, Taylor, now identifies as genderqueer and goes by the pronoun they. The absorbing story earnestly examines both Kate and Taylor, as the two must decide how this change will impact their lifelong friendship.

Potent, unforgettable tales and razor-sharp writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88971-339-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Nightwood Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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